Dassault Aviation has delivered the first of 18 Rafale multi-role fighters to the Hellenic Air Force (HAF), just six months after the acquisition contract was inked between the Greek Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the French aircraft manufacturing giant.
The handover of the first Rafale took place during a ceremony at the Dassault Aviation Flight Test Center in Istres, located in France’s Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, on July 21. The ceremony was hosted by Éric Trappier, chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, in the presence of the Greek Minister of National Defence, Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos.
This first example – a former Armée de l'Air et de l'Espace (AAE, French Air and Space Force)-operated Rafale B – is the first of six two-seat examples that will be handed over to the HAF in the coming months. The initial aircraft – serial 401 – was delivered to Greek officials at Istres sporting its new HAF livery, which it was first noted as wearing during a test flight on May 18, 2021. In total, Greece will receive 12 single-seat Rafale Cs, along with six two-seat Rafale Bs. Of these, 12 will be second-hand from the AAE, while the remaining six will be new-build examples from Dassault. In Greek service, the two variants will be known as the Rafale EG and DG, respectively.
The first Rafale B, along with the next five second-hand aircraft from the AAE, will remain in France for the time being, where they will be used to train HAF pilots and technicians. At a later date, these aircraft and their respective air/ground crews will relocate to Tanagra Air Base, near Athens, Greece. Dassault states that the first group of Greek pilots have already spent several months with the AAE, adding that 50 HAF technicians will soon join the firm’s Conversion Training Center (CTC) in Mérignac, France, to continue their training.
The firm noted that the “Rafale will provide the HAF with a latest-generation multi-role fighter, enabling the Hellenic Republic to ensure its geostrategic stance in full sovereignty. The delivery of the first Rafale is a clear demonstration of France’s determination to meet the government of the Hellenic [Republic’s] expectations and to participate actively to the sovereignty of the country.”
In addition to the acquisition contract – which was signed on January 24, 2021 – the Greek MOD and Dassault also signed a logistics support contract, which will see the French firm support the air activity of the HAF’s Rafale fleet over a four-and-a-half year period. As part of this contract, the firm will also maintain the availability of equipment and systems relevant to Greek Rafale operations.
Greece shares a long history with Dassault, which started when the nation ordered the Mirage F1 in 1974, followed by the Mirage 2000 in 1985 and finally the Mirage 2000-5 in 2000. Reaffirming their strong relationship, Trappier said: “The Rafale is now proudly flying with the [HAF] colours. The Rafale is a strategic game changer for the HAF. It will play an active role by securing Greece’s leadership as a major regional power. I would like to reaffirm our total commitment to the success of the Rafale in Greece.”
To learn more about the Greece's history with combat aircraft produced by Dassault Aviation, the background behind this latest deal and the HAFs recent training operations and exercises with the French military follow the link below. Alternatively, you can read more in 'Rafales of Skyros' feature, which was included in the August issue of Combat Aircraft Journal, p20-25.